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AFNET trials provide key evidence for atrial fibrillation guideline recommendations

Physicians base their decisions on medical guidelines: the American guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of atrial fibrillation now includes recommendations from the AFNET studies. | © izusek - istockphoto.com

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Investigator-initiated trials led by the German Atrial Fibrillation NETwork (AFNET) provide evidence for several recommendations in the 2023 guideline for the diagnosis and management of atrial fibrillation (AF) developed by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) in collaboration with the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS). The updated guideline has recently been published in Circulation. The DZHK has supported parts of the AFNET studies.

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During the past 20 years, AFNET delivered a set of investigator-initiated trials in the field of atrial fibrillation. The results of these trials now provide evidence for several recommendations in the 2023 American guideline for the diagnosis and management of AF.

The 10 take home messages emphasize the importance of early and continued management of patients with AF that should focus on maintaining sinus rhythm and minimizing AF burden. This new recommendation is based on the results of the EAST – AFNET 4 trial.

The up-to-date guidance contains the following new recommendation:

“In patients with a recent diagnosis of AF (<1 year), rhythm control can be useful to reduce hospitalizations, stroke, and mortality.” (Section 8.1 on rhythm control therapy). This means that early rhythm control therapy should be considered in all patients fulfilling the enrolment criteria of EAST – AFNET 4. Several sub-studies of EAST – AFNET 4 have influenced the recommendations on rhythm control in patients with atrial fibrillation and heart failure, in asymptomatic patients, and in other subgroups.

The results of the AXADIA – AFNET 8 trial are mentioned in a text considering anticoagulation with apixaban in patients with AF and hemodialysis. The authors of the guidelines stated: “Two small trials (one of which is AXADIA – AFNET 8) of apixaban versus warfarin in patients with AF on hemodialysis could not show differences in safety or efficacy outcomes but significantly more bleeding than stroke events.” (Section 6.8.4. chronic kidney disease).

A recommendation concerning anticoagulation therapy before and after catheter ablation (section 8.4.4.) is supported by the findings of the AXAFA – AFNET 5 trial. The new guidance is: “In patients on a DOAC (direct oral anticoagulant) who are undergoing catheter ablation of AF, catheter ablation should be performed with either continuous or minimally interrupted oral anticoagulation.”

The older AFNET trials ANTIPAF – AFNET 2 and Flec SL – AFNET 3 have also been incorporated. The guidelines refer to ANTIPAF – AFNET 2 (section 8.3.4. upstream therapy) and Flec SL – AFNET 3 (section 8.2.2. electrical cardioversion) in their guidance on how to use sartans and sodium channel blockers to prevent AF and recurrent AF.

AFNET board member Professor Andreas Goette, St. Vincenz Hospital Paderborn, Germany, concludes: “Overall, this new set of guidelines reflect the growing impact of AFNET-led investigator- initiated trials to help define the best management in patients with atrial fibrillation.”

Professor Paulus Kirchhof, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany, states: “As chair of AFNET, I am very pleased that the AHA/ACC/HRS guidelines writing committee recognizes the work of AFNET. This is a very welcome recognition of AFNET in the year of its 20th anniversary. We are indebted to all patients and partners who helped us to deliver this work. This recognition is motivation to continue our work to improve outcomes for patients with atrial fibrillation.”

The AFNET studies are investigator-initiated trials with AFNET as sponsor. They are co-financed by AFNET, public partners, and industry partners. EAST – AFNET 4 and AXAFA – AFNET 5 were partially supported by the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK). ANTIPAF – AFNET 2 and Flec SL AFNET 3 were partially funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Joglar JA et al. 2023 ACC/AHA/ACCP/HRS Guideline for the Diagnosis and Management of Atrial Fibrillation: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Joint Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Circulation 30 Nov 2023. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000001193


Source: Press release Atrial Fibrillation NETwork (AFNET)